PARIS — The United States has a disturbing tendency to see the world in two colors: black and white. It divides things into good and evil, democracies and dictatorships.
Such was the case yet again during this week's NATO summit in Brussels, with Washington portraying China and Russia as the new evil empires against whom the "good guys" must unite their political, economic and, why not, military forces. Joe Biden went so far as to pressure his allies into including a formal criticism of Beijing in their final communiqué.
One can only be pleased to see him resurrect the "democracy of values" that Donald Trump had so flouted. And it's hard not to agree with his criticism of Chinese hegemony flexed in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the dozens of countries along the so-called "New Silk Road" that have signed commercial agreements with Beijing.
And yet, Joe Biden's crusade is no more altruistic than George Bush's was 20 years ago. It's about defending U.S. economic interests, nothing else — although in this case it's no longer a question of just getting hold of oil, but of preventing China from becoming the world's leading economic power.
Europe has the power to impose a more equitable balance of power with China.
Unfortunately, we know all the damage that this Manichaean approach to the world causes: It was by designating Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil" that the United States set the Middle East on fire, a war whose consequences we are still paying for today.
It is up to Europe, therefore, to remain lucid, as it was at the time, and to keep its independence. This seems all the more necessary as the United States has little regard for its Western allies. The hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, without any consultation, has offended European capitals. The way the U.S. is blocking national gas exchanges between Russia and Europe, with the sole aim of favoring exports, is no more acceptable.
Europe does not have to pay the price of this new cold war between Washington and Beijing. Its commercial and energy dependence on both China and Moscow are too great to give in blindly to American interests. It can even less afford to do so given that Beijing became its number one trading partner last year, ahead of Washington, and is indispensable in the fight against climate change.
Because of the size of its market — 450 million inhabitants — the European Union has the power to impose a more equitable balance of power with China. It's a crucial mission, and one that requires us to reject the new wall that Washington wants to build between us and Beijing.
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